Editorial by Joel Schulz – Managing Editor
Yesterday, May 2nd, Ottawa announced it was shuttering the Federal Libraries and Archives. Last month Canadians have experienced a revelation on out of control spending and cover-ups on costs regarding the F-35 military aircraft. By their own admission, senior members of the executive branch have informed us that Canadian taxpayers will be on the hook for $25 billion, up from $15 billion, and this added expenditure is absolutely necessary. The government has been aware of this for over one year and they have only told the public in the past few weeks. Some military experts believe the costs will spiral even higher. On Monday, this week, we learned that the government had maintained two sets of books for the F-35 project, one telling the truth for the Department of National Defense and the other for the general public.
In the recent budget, the Harper administration slashed funding to the CBC by $115 million, the National Film Board by approximately $4 million, Library and Archives Canada by $9.6 million, as well as cuts to Telefilm and the National Arts Centre. They obliterated the Katimavik program. The combined cuts are less than one half of one percent of the total budget for the F-35. The government is willing to increase military spending by $10 billion but cannot see maintaining the status quo for the arts. It’s as if these jets opened fire on Canadian culture. Lockheed-Martin gets rich at the expense of our critically acclaimed television, short film, and arts programming.
Turn the clock back two years and we see the writing on the wall. Funding rules for publication subsidies were re-written in such a way that most essential scholarly, literary, cultural, and arts magazines would lose there funding because of limited subscriptions in their highly specialized communities. These rules essentially killed further development of promotional and informative communications in these areas. Surprisingly, the government spared Canadian Cattleman and Grain News from the subscriber quota. It’s as if the Canadian public is in greater need of knowledge of issues facing ranchers than issues about our heritage.
The Saskatchewan Party, under Premier Brad Wall, has eliminated the tax credit for film and television production. This is at a time when the province has been very healthy economically. However, it is easy to see the influence from Ottawa when one considers the fact that the Saskatchewan Party and the federal Conservative Party have closely aligned themselves with one another.
Moving further west, Alberta has been hyping the Creative Hub for Calgary for a few years. The City of Calgary has stepped up to the plate knowing that such a project would be economically sound for Southern Alberta. This region has produced more award winning films and television productions than any other region of Canada. Just last week, Bleeding Art Industries’ Skeleton Girl won an award at the prestigious Be Film Underground Film Festival in New York, yet in the recent budget no funding for Southern Alberta arts was made available. However, Alberta Buzz does congratulate Decidedly Dance Works for securing a considerable grant independent of this budget.
If you allow me to fly off on a tangent briefly, this government has broken promises that impact our most vulnerable. Three years ago to the date of this election, they promised seniors would no longer have to co-pay on their prescriptions, saving some thousands of dollars year. On Canada Day 2010, they announced they were breaking that promise. The most recent Minister of Culture, Ms. Klimchuk, has been dead silent on the arts. In the days leading up to the election last week, I approached the Wildrose Alliance several times on the topic only to be given no reply.
British Columbia has slashed their funding to the arts by almost 50 percent. Ontario has slashed more than $10 million from festivals, cultural TV, and museums.
Across the country, an overt war has been declared against the arts. Unless the light at the end of the tunnel is re-kindled, even our culture will be outsourced within a few years. We recommend, for Albertans concerned with our cultural heritage, that you become very vocal and grill your MLAs and MPs on why this country is putting itself on the path to becoming a cultural vacuum.